Teachers are now expected to enrich their maths lessons, but how easy is this to do in the classroom? Caroline Clissold offers advice and ideas for key stage 2
|I had really hoped that the renewed Primary Framework of 2006 would have addressed the issue of enriching mathematics in the classroom, as it had intended. Enrichment has been addressed by more confident and creative teachers, but in many classrooms there seems to have been little change so far. However, the original Numeracy Strategy of 1999 took a few years to be embedded into schools and I strongly believe that it will take time for teachers to embrace the new approach fully and use it effectively. This needs to be recognised and teachers allowed time to enable it to happen.|
The implementation of the Numeracy Strategy almost a decade ago was essential because maths teaching in primary schools was generally poor. Maths was being taught by teachers who were not always confident in the subject and did not know the progression that is necessary for learning maths. The original framework addressed these problems brilliantly. Nine years on, the strategy is emphasising using and applying, speaking and listening, making cross-curricular links and encouraging flexibility, without taking the eye off the all-important progression.
It’s easier than you would think to enrich the maths curriculum; it just takes a slightly different mindset and a change in the approach to planning. The original framework caused many teachers to become objective-led, so they have tended to continue to plan and teach to each week’s required objectives. Much of the work that I have been doing with teachers over the past few years has involved planning series of lessons from the framework, or more recently the blocks, focusing on the using and applying elements of maths.
Our work has also involved being more creative, thinking of areas across the curriculum or in real life to which the maths skills being taught and practised can be linked. We have also looked at ways of achieving more effective group work and started to use mixed ability home groups that included, among other things, similar attainment guided work. Teachers have all commented that their teaching has been more purposeful, great fun and engaging for the pupils as well as themselves. The pupils have benefitted from the mixed style of grouping, with self-esteem rising among the lower attaining groups. As well as those positives, attainment rose too.
When looking at planning it is important to identify the objectives that don’t need a lesson to themselves because they have been taught in previous years and therefore need developing, practising or applying in other contexts: for example, tables and mental calculation strategies such as doubling, adding multiples of 10 and adjusting. They could simply be the focus of mental and oral starters during the block and encouraged when calculating. If you do this and also take out the ‘using and applying’ objectives because they will feature in all lessons, you will free up more time to get stuck into the main objectives for the block.
Here is an example of work we did in Year 4 on Block C, Unit 1: Handling data and measures. At about this time during the term the literacy focus was newspapers and report writing, so we linked the two subjects.
We prepared a PowerPoint™ presentation using the Interactive Teaching Program (ITP) Handling Data to show a survey of choices of newspaper by 350 individuals. This enabled such skills as estimating, calculating, fractions (which we showed as both a bar chart and a pie chart) and interpreting data to be practised and assessed. We discussed other ways in which the data could be shown and briefly demonstrated a tally, frequency table and pictogram. The pupils then made a class survey using a tally. In their mixed ability home groups of four, they worked in two pairs with one pair making a frequency table and the other pair making a pictogram to display the information. They discussed the benefits and drawbacks of each system and decided as a group which they felt was preferable.
The task for the rest of the week was for each group to make a newspaper of four A3 pages. Their first job was to select a title for their paper. They did this using an alphabet code of A = 2, B = 4 etc, with the rule that their paper’s name must have a value between 200 and 250. Next they had to make text boxes for the title, so this lesson involved teaching and practising skills of measuring length: vocabulary, units and equivalences, what would be measured, in what and with what. They drew lines, asked a partner to estimate their lengths and together checked the lengths with a ruler. Following this they each made a text box for their paper’s title; differentiation was through text box sizes (cm, 0.5cm and mm). They did this individually, wrote in the newspaper title, cut out the text box and then as a group decided which box to use and where to position it before sticking it on to their front page. The other titles were used on subsequent pages.
In their literacy lesson, they looked at real newspapers, identifying their various components. In maths, they began to make text boxes for some of their newspaper content by measuring, drawing, cutting and sticking on the pages. Reports and stories written in literacy were added to these text boxes, two for each pupil.
Their next job was to work on advertising, in similar attainment groups, allowing for guided work with the teacher. Each group was given a budget and costing information (eg, a budget of £200; costings: £50 picture, £10 line, 10p word). The amounts were differentiated according to attainment. Once they had completed designing their advert they rejoined their home group, shared what they had done, decided where each advert should go and stuck them on to their newspaper pages.
Their final job was to make TV guides. They gathered data on favourite TV programmes and created a bar chart using ICT. Once this was done – again, working in similar attainment groups, so allowing for guided work – they each drew a text box, made a channel title, listed at least five programmes, decided the starting and finishing times and worked out the length of the programme to write as an information guide to readers. This was differentiated according to specific times (eg, o’clock and half past; to five minutes; 24-hour clock. In home groups they discussed where to position the TV guides and stuck them on to their newspaper pages.
At the end of the week they were given time to evaluate their newspapers.
The second part of the block covered weight and capacity, using the story of Bert the newspaper boy who would be delivering their papers once they had been printed.
First, a teaching session practised skills necessary for measuring weight: vocabulary, units and equivalences, what would be measured in what and with what. The pupils were given objects that weighed a specific amount (eg, 1kg bag of sugar, 3kg bag of potatoes, 500g of butter). They felt, ordered and weighed them. They chose classroom items and measured them against the originals, estimating and then weighing.
They then estimated and weighed a newspaper. The teacher then asked questions related to Bert’s possible load: If he carries 10 papers what is the total weight? If the total weight is 25kg, how many papers? This led to more guided work, as the task was differentiated according to number of papers and weight. Of course, this is thirsty work for Bert, so he needs to carry water on his round. This led to teaching and practising the skills of measuring capacity in a similar way to weight: vocabulary, units and equivalences etc.
The teacher provided 500ml, 1L and 2L water bottles. The pupils filled them, ordered them and poured the water into a measuring cylinder to check amounts.
In their home groups, pupils made Bert a scale for his water bottle to show him how much water he was drinking. They did this by pouring 100ml at a time into a 2l bottle and marking each 100ml division up to 2l on a strip of paper to stick to the bottle.
By the end of the two weeks all the objectives for Block C were fulfilled and many more. The pupils had had fun and the teachers thought this was a great way to teach.
It is possible to effectively link to topics centred around geography, science, art and DT. Literacy also offers a wealth of opportunities outside newspapers. With a group of teachers, I have recently planned Block C around Jack and the Beanstalk and Block B around the stories of Roald Dahl. It is also great fun to give pupils shop catalogues (eg, Argos, Next, B&Q) and takeaway menus as a real life pathway to teaching the calculation objectives with the using and applying theme running throughout. Have a go at planning a school trip: measuring distances, converting scales on maps, working out the best routes and the length of time it would take to get from school to the destination. Planning a holiday abroad within a budget could lead to finding out costs of flights and hotels, converting currencies and exploring temperature. If you use mapping software or Google Earth, you could find these places so that the pupils know where they are in the context of where they live.